Cocoa Cinnamon owner, entrepreneur & artist
Leon Grodski de Barrera has a really long name because of how much he loves his wife and partner Areli Barrera de Grodski. He considers himself an artist because that is how he used to make a living and believes that his work at Cocoa Cinnamon is a different form of that creative expression. He loves imagining and being part of building a healthy and thriving Bull City. He’s an avid enthusiast of competitive indoor badminton, loves helping others and engaging in varied and thoughtful discourse. Grodski de Barrera believes that enough is plenty and hopes to take part in living and helping others live a new more sustainable version of the American Dream.
After growing up on the road in New York, Florida and Michigan, Leon Grodski de Barrera earned his B.A. in Philosophy and Literature from Binghampton University and his M.A. in English Education from Columbia University. In 1996 he spent one year living in Cologne, Germany, where he discovered Dada, frequented Museum Ludwig, assembled collages, learned the invigoration of total immersion in the foreign and how to sleep in a train or park. In 1998, he lived in Paris, France and spent his days at the movies and his nights at Café Cithea. Upon his return to New York, Leon began working in the multimedia industry.
In September, 2001 Leon created The Sushi Bar to join his work as a producer and as an artist. Under the title The Sushi Bar, Grodski de Barrera creates artworks, writes and produces installations and films for other artists. After a stint as an artist in residence at Western Carolina University in 2003 he opened Tribal Grounds Coffee with his then partner, which he ran through September 2010, and co-founded LIFT Contemporary a non-profit arts organization on the Qualla Boundary.
In December, 2010, Leon and his wife Areli founded Cocoa Cinnamon in order to craft the experience of coffee, chocolate, tea and spice, aiming to take daily steps to use commerce to create the world in which they want to live.
Having run bikeCOFFEE for a year and 1/2, with vision, hard work and a lot of help Leon and Areli opened Cocoa Cinnamon, the shop at 420 W Geer Street, Durham, NC in January 2013. They, along with their dedicated crew, are currently developing the second Cocoa Cinnamon location in Old West Durham.